Monday, 3 February 2014

A Smoking Gun?

There's an article in the paper this morning regarding organ donation and transplants. Specifically lung transplants.

According to research, done by Harefield, one of the UK's best transplant hospitals, over half of lung transplants are done with organs donated from smokers. A fifth of these smoked twenty or more a day. The piece is written with a headlines designed to shock, which is typical. The paper is always trying to stir something up.

Now when you are put on the transplant list you are given a tick list of the type of lungs you will accept. You can opt out of receiving lungs from drug users and those of smokers. Personally I saw no reason to limit my chances so I ticked everything as acceptable. If they'd offered me pigs lungs I'd have ticked the 'yes' box. I was, and am, that desperate.

The way I see it is this. OK, the donor may have been a smoker but how long ago? Research into lung cancer etc shows that it doesn't matter how long you've smoked for you lungs will start to recover the minute you stop. Over time you could end up with lungs as healthy as though you have never smoked. Even if the donor had smoked up to his last day I'd trust the transplant team to make sure the lungs were fine for transplant. They would never do something to put me at risk, which is why so many organs are rejected every year. The heart and lungs are the first organs to be removed from the body of a donor. This is because they have the shortest 'shelf life'. It has been know for a transplant to be stopped as a patient is being wheeled into theatre because cancer has been found in another part of the body. That's how careful they are. No matter how perfect the lungs are, the smallest growth in any other part of the body means they cannot be used.

There are many, many risks involved in lung transplant, or any other type for that matter. One of them is catching something from your donor. It is a known and acceptable risk. Usually it is something easily treated such as a virus or infection. Occasionally, and as far as I know there has only been one case, you can develop lung cancer. However who's to say you wouldn't have developed cancer anyway?

Only 20% of transplants take place in the six months directly after transplant. That rises to 50% after three years but by then half the people on the list will have died waiting. Overall you are much more likely to die waiting for a transplant than from catching something from the donor. As far as I'm concerned those are good odds. For someone who has been waiting for over a year, and who knows time is running out, the risk is minute. I would much rather have one or two years living a 'normal' life, and accepting the risks that come with smokers lungs, than deny myself that over a tiny possibility.

So talking of lungs how are mine this morning? Well feeling good. I still have my cough, I don't think that will ever completely go, but it is now unproductive, always a good sign. I'm feeling better in myself too. I'm sleeping well and getting plenty of rest so everything is progressing nicely. I have another day or two before my sick note runs out to decide whether to go back to work. If I do it will only be for two days and then I have a week off. Sounds like the perfect way to 'test the waters' as it were.

Today I'm going to do something normal. I have already taken my kitchen back and now I'm planning on a little light ironing this afternoon. As I said, just testing myself.

Ireland beat Scotland in the rugby, no surprises there, in a very one sided match. Ireland face Wales next weekend and I think it's going to be a difficult one, especially as Ireland will be playing at home. However I have already booked my place on the settee and will be cheering with all the gusto I can muster.

Well time for my antibiotics, a cuppa and then a little exercise in the form of loading towels into the washing machine. Next blog tomorrow.